Steven V. Roberts: A move to purge the Republican past

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 7, 2021

In the nine elections between 1980 and 2012, candidates with one of three names — Bush, Cheney and Romney — appeared on the GOP’s national ticket nine times. Yet today, those names are all reviled by a party dominated by one man: Donald J. Trump.

When Sen. Mitt Romney was loudly booed at the Republican state convention in Utah, the catcalls could have been aimed at all three families, or at just about anyone else who led the GOP during the pre-Trump era.

“Aren’t you embarrassed?” Romney asked the unruly crowd. The answer was clearly, “Hell no.”

A similar cascade of condemnation was unleashed by voters in the sixth district of Texas, which held a primary to replace a congressman who died last February. Michael Wood, the lone anti-Trump Republican in the field, attracted only 3% of the vote and placed ninth.

As John Boehner, the former speaker of the House, has succinctly put it, “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump Party.”

The consequences for the GOP could hardly be higher. They have lashed themselves to a leader who has never commanded the support of a majority of Americans — and never will. In both of his runs for the White House, Trump fell below 47% of the popular vote. He was the only president in the history of modern polling to never achieve a 50% approval rating. That rating today is stuck under 40%, with 55% of Americans viewing him negatively.

It gets worse. The face of America is changing rapidly. When the Reagan-Bush team won 41 years ago, the electorate was 88% white. Last year, according to exit polling, the white vote had dropped to 67%. While Latino and Asian Americans don’t automatically back Democrats, nonwhite voters overall preferred Biden by 71 to 26, and the percentage of whites in the electorate will continue to decrease in coming years. Another warning sign for Republicans: Voters under 30 chose Biden by 60 to 36.

It does not take a political or mathematical genius to figure out that a Trump-led GOP is headed for disaster. President George Bush 43, who received 44% of both the Latino and Asian vote in 2004, says of a Trumpist party that alienates minority voters: “To me, that basically says that we want to be extinct.”

Trumpism is not just about loyalty to one man. It’s about loyalty to a set of ideas, to a detached and deranged view of the world that says — in the infamous but indelible words of Trump confidant Rudy Giuliani — “truth isn’t truth.” Facts aren’t facts. Only Trump, the Lord of the Lies, gets to define reality.

He made more than 30,000 “false or misleading” statements during his four years in office, according to The Washington Post, but he saved his largest lie for his post-presidential period: the completely false statement that the election was rigged against him.

If you think the word “lie” is unfair, just listen to Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, who tweeted: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”

What Cheney says is indisputably, undeniably true — a conclusion ratified by countless Republican election officials, Trump-appointed judges and Attorney General Bill Barr. Yet as CNN reports, 70% of Republicans still refuse to believe Biden won the election fairly, and they are determined to purge from their ranks anyone who does not embrace Trump’s BIG LIE.

First on the chopping block is Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who could face two tests: a vote in the weeks ahead to oust her from the party’s leadership, and a primary challenge next year that could drive her from the House entirely. But she is hardly alone. Trump recently urged Republican senators to replace their leader, Mitch McConnell, because he won’t buy into Donald’s delusions.

Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state who rebuffed Trump’s pressures and refused to negate Biden’s victory in his state, faces a primary challenge from Rep. Jody Hice, who is running with Trump’s blessing. Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, another Republican who stood up to Trump, is regularly lambasted by the former president as “one of the worst governors in America.”

A party that embraces Trump and Trumpism, while rejecting reality, will deserve the doom that awaits it.


Steven Roberts teaches  politics and journalism at George Washington University. Email him at